Down with the imperialist threats against Venezuela! No trust in Maduro’s authoritarian regime

Statement approved by the First National Conference of Revolutionary Regroupment (Brazil) in January 2019

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On January 10th, Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for his second term as Venezuela’s president as his regime develops further and further towards authoritarianism. Right now, it is quickly transitioning from the semi-democratic Bonapartism it was under Chavez to a sheer dictatorship, heavily based on the military. This is happening due to a considerable loss in popularity after Hugo Chavez’s passing, followed by a deep economic crisis currently hitting the country. Last year, inflation rates went over 1000%, leading to severe degradation of the population’s living conditions, specially the working class.

As we analyzed in our 2017 article about Venezuela [1], the right-wing pro-imperialist opposition to the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) and to Chavismo in general has been gaining momentum. They won the last legislative elections (2016) and conducted a series of mass demonstrations in 2017. The growing authoritarianism of Maduro’s regime to maintain itself in power can be seen in the de facto dissolution of Congress, which has been replaced by a Constituent Assembly which violates universal suffrage and makes sure the PSUV retains a majority; oppositional leaders and protesters have been arrested, as well as member of the Judiciary system, including those who consider themselves Chavistas but are critical of Maduro.

Despite its “socialist” demagoguery, the PSUV government was never anything other than a government attempting to promote conciliation of classes. It used oil funds to meet some of the basic needs of the workers and the poor (something rare in Latin America), but also addressed the capitalists’ desire to maintain a competitive profit rate. They intended to conciliate the most immediate material needs of the two fundamental classes of society and to favor a so-called “Bolivarian bourgeoisie” which was supposedly “nationalist” and “responsible”. The drop in oil prices in the international market powerfully revealed that this project could not succeed in the long run. Without the large oil profits, the Bolivarian project lost its ground and started hanging in the air in face of the class contradictions of Venezuelan capitalism.

Unable to address the bourgeois interests for growing profit rates or to continue making concessions to the workers, the regime lost support from both classes it tried to conciliate. It only survived because of the social support earned throughout the years and now expects that the ceasing of the economic crisis will lead to another cycle of wealth based on oil sales. Chavismo is growing more and more autocratic and slim-shaped as it maintains its recipe of “class collaboration” amid the cruel reality of Venezuelan capitalism. This has led “Bolivarian Socialism” to mean the strict control of power in the hands of the PSUV bureaucracy: a capitalist Bonapartist government which suppresses struggles organized by the workers’ movement and prevents workers’ independent organizing. At the same time, it reinforces the state’s military-bureaucratic apparatus to defend itself from the increasingly hostile national and imperialist bourgeoisies.

Since most of the ostensibly socialist left in Venezuela has historically capitulated to the false perspective of “Bolivarian socialism” built by the PSUV government, there is no significant proletarian left-wing opposition to Maduro’s government today. As a result, many of the workers who lost confidence in Maduro or any hope that Chavez’s “good old days” can return, have become apathetic, tried to leave the country or found expression for their anger in supporting the right-wing opposition, that is, the section of the bourgeoisie with closest links to American imperialism. As there is no clear consciousness that the crisis in Venezuela is due to the capitalist system, and that only overcoming this system the main problems being suffered by the masses can be solved, large numbers of workers have the false expectation that some sort of “economic plan” from the right-wing opposition could change the situation for better.

The reactionary opposition and U.S. imperialism are feeling now comfortable enough to plan a coup d’état to overthrow Maduro. If they succeed, they will surely liquidate all social gains of Venezuelan workers which are crystalized in the current configuration of forces of Venezuelan society. Their tactic has been to manipulate popular dissatisfaction to give legitimacy to their coup plots (as was the case with the series of street protests of 2017) while they study the possibilities of a foreign military incursion into the country. Last August, U.S. President Donald Trump asked his top consultants about the possible scenarios of a military invasion against Venezuela. [2] He even announced to journalists that he may consider a “military option against Maduro”. [3] In September 2018, it came to light the fact that top members of Trump’s government had held meetings with Venezuelan army officers interested in a coup. [4] Despite publicly denying plans to invade Venezuela, Trump and his advisors seem to be willing to go after this endeavor. A leading member of the Colombian government led by Ivan Duque (which is extremely subservient to U.S. imperialism) recently said that “If [Brazilian President Jair] Bolsonaro declares a military intervention to overthrow Maduro, he will have Colombia’s help” (October 2018). [5] Bolsonaro’s own xenophobic and conspiratorial hysteria about an inexistent Venezuelan “communism” is also a factor to have in mind in the continental chess board.

Maduro has responded to these threats by reinforcing his military apparatus. During the last year, he organized a “civil militia” which he claims has more than 1.6 million members. [6] He also approached Russia and China in pursue of deals for guns, military training and equipment for Venezuelan armed forces. [7] Recently there have been rumors about the possibility of a Russian military basis being set in the country. [8] Obviously, this is not confirmed and official spokespeople deny these allegations. But it seems clear that both sides are preparing for a confrontation.

In face of these growing tensions, it is every socialist’s task to denounce the threats made by Trump, Duque and Bolsonaro. Even if Maduro’s government has no capacity of meeting workers’ interests, a military invasion against Venezuela, articulated or headed by the United States, would mean the establishment of a puppet regime which would further sell out to imperialism. It would increase the exploitation of Venezuela’s natural resources and of its workers by the imperialist powers, increasingly worsening the population’s already critical living conditions (to have an example of this, it is enough to see what happened to Libya in 2011). [9]

Therefore, all American, Colombian or Brazilian preparations for an attack against Venezuela must be met with street protests and boycott actions, strikes and picket lines to block troops and military equipment. Occupation of strategic public buildings could also play a role, along with broadly agitating how harmful such attack would be for all workers and peoples of Latin America. “Defense of democracy” is nothing but a ludicrous excuse of the big powers in their attempt to better rob natural resources and obtain cheap labor for the benefit of their capitalist barons and millionaires. For working people, it would mean loss of sovereignty and doubled exploitation.

While it is certainly necessary to fight for democratic rights in Venezuela, it is up to Venezuelan workers to lead this struggle, not imperialists or their stooges. If Maduro’s government resists coup attempts or military invasions, it is a duty for all socialists to tactically take its side, not aiming at defending the government in itself, but the limited albeit important organization and achievements of the working class which persist despite Maduro’s own intentions. It is a general rule of class struggle that those who do not care about defending conquered positions are incapable of fighting to gain new ones, much less of fighting for power when opportunity arises. But the only alternative for workers in face of the right-wing opposition and the growing authoritarianism of Maduro’s government is to prepare to fight not only for democratic and social gains, but also for an authentic government of Venezuelan workers. This is not to be mistaken for a PSUV government in alliance with a “Bolivarian bourgeoisie”, but instead it is the direct power of proletarian councils to democratically rule over the country’s natural resources and the fruits of labor.

For this, a revolutionary socialist party is needed in Venezuela, a party capable of giving a clear proletarian political expression to the popular anger against Maduro’s government. A starting point would be for those who consider themselves socialists to stop spreading the false view that the PSUV government is somehow progressive, “anti-imperialist” or even socialist. Despite some demagoguery in contrary, the PSUV government is a bourgeois government ahead of the capitalist state. Today it needs the workers on its side to defeat the imperialist threats. But if it succeeds in staying in power, it will inevitably betray workers’ expectations in an attempt to solidify new alliances with the bourgeoisie and of eliminating the risk of a genuine socialist revolution. Class independence from Chavismo (as well as from the pro-imperialist opposition) is therefore the only possibility for workers to win.

Defeat the war threats made by Trump, Duque and Bolsonaro against the people of Venezuela! No trust in Maduro: workers must strive to build real socialism through establishing proletarian councils as the basis for a future workers’ state!

Addendum: On January 23rd, after this statement had already been drafted, the President of Venezuelan Congress, an organ which was nullified by Maduro’s new Constitution but which remains functioning, declared himself the legitimate president of Venezuela. He immediately received recognition from the U.S., Brazil and several countries in Latin America. A few days earlier there had been a meeting of members of the right-wing opposition with representatives of Brazil’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, U.S. government and the “Group of Lima”, a summit of Latin American governments opposed to Venezuela. It is a maneuver preparing the terrain for a coup d’état against Maduro. As stated before, workers must boycott and denounce all moves by these reactionary forces and instead build separate and independent organizations to overcome the limits imposed by Chavismo. Without giving Maduro any sort of political support, in face of any coup which would deepen the imperialist domination over the country, workers must do all they can to halt and defeat such intention, through strikes, protests and blockages. Those who are far from Venezuela must engage in internationalist actions to denounce the imperialist crimes and intentions (once again, maintaining political independence from Maduro).